Pido Jarencio breathed a big sigh before blurting out his assessment of what he thought NorthPort did on Wednesday night.
“We played a near-perfect game, especially on defense,” Jarencio said with a wide smile, moments after his Batang Pier steamrolled TNT, 110-86, at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, to stay undefeated in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup eliminations. “I really can’t say anything more.”
He had every right to say anything he wanted as his defensive ploy he tried keeping a secret worked wonders in cuffing TNT’s prolific import, Terrence Jones, who came into the game averaging 42 points and 18 rebounds.
The Batang Pier held Jones to just 17 points to send the KaTropa to their first defeat in three games.
And an ugly one at that.
“We frustrated their high-scoring import,” Jarencio went on in Filipino. “That was our [defensive] mind-set and we knew that the rest would follow.”
NorthPort got a big lift from the comebacking Stanley Pringle, who played his first game coming off the injured list to shoot 22 points in just under 29 minutes and lead the Batang Pier to their third straight win, again tied for the early lead with idle Blackwater.
“I think we’re going in the right direction—and that is not to just make the playoffs, but at least the semis and maybe the Finals,” he went on as a total of five players tossed in twin digits with rookie Robert Bolick accounting for 21 and import Prince Ibeh contributing 18 points and 20 rebounds.
Later in the night, Alaska held off NLEX, 100-87, behind Jeron Teng’s 20 points and Chris Banchero’s 17.
Tony Mitchell finally suited up for the Road Warriors and finished with 34 points.
There’s no doubt that the Batang Pier claimed the biggest fish in their impressive run early in the conference. But things will be tougher starting Saturday as NorthPort starts facing teams of the same caliber as TNT—if not stronger.
Barangay Ginebra and Justin Brownlee will be up next before San Miguel Beer and Magnolia take their shot at the Batang Pier.
“We will take it one game at a time and, like I said, our goal is not just to make the playoffs, but the championship if possible,” Jarencio said.
Jones found it hard to navigate past the bruising NorthPort defense, which bodied him up with constant help defenses. The NBA veteran ended up frustrated in the third quarter and that proved to be the key as the Batang Pier turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 12-point lead entering the fourth.